Wonder-filled Washington: Our Route, Part 1

As I mentioned in a previous post, we are now attempting to follow the Sierra Cascades route through Washington.  Well, as Kathleen mentioned in her post, no sooner had we started on the route than we hit a roadblock:  the mountain pass we were attempting to cross, Highway 25 just east of Mt. St. Helen’s, was still blocked, so we had a 6-day detour to rejoin the highway on the northeast side of Mt. St. Helen’s.  We didn’t mind, as we met Erik, Sara, Annika and Riley, and we had an incredible ride up into the blast zone of Mt. St. Helen’s.

Visiting Mt. St. Helen’s was a moving experience for me and the family.  I was especially moved as I taught geography for 12 years, and every year I showed the movie “The Fire Below Us” to my students, which dramatizes the experiences of some of the people caught in the destruction that occurred during and after the Mt. St. Helen’s eruption of May 18, 1980.  So I knew the story quite well.  But to travel into the blast zone, and look down on the devastated area, was a moving experience.  We biked over the Toutle River, which was the sight of a massive mud, lava, water, ice, and tree flow that took out bridges and small communities.  We passed one once-beautiful A-frame house that was 3 days from completion when it was inundated in mud and buried in 6 feet of mud.  It is still there.  An incredible experience.

https://www.plotaroute.com/embedmap/213797

View route map for Washington – Sierra Cascades Detour on plotaroute.com

After Mt. St. Helen’s we headed north to highway 12, then east across White Pass, through the towns of Morton, Randle, Packwood, and Naches.  We were amazed at how the landscape went from wet forested in the west to arid and dry in the east, after we passed over the pass.  The route in general was stunning.  Wide shoulders, low traffic volume, and incredible views of the moutains.

After Naches we headed north through the Yakima River Valley, a windy road that follows the flow of the river, and a fly-fishers’ paradise.  That’s where we saw the bald eagles nesting in a high tree beside the river.

After the Yakima River Valley, we headed into Ellensburg, a nice college town with a great outdoors shop!  We were able to get the small can of fuel we needed, new bike shorts for Kathleen, and a new ultralight bucket.

End of Part 1!

Peek a Boo Mountains! Oregon and Mount Hood

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The last few weeks we have spent having a joyous ride through the stunning mountains of Oregon and Washington.  Many mountain passes, snowy peaks, wonderful people, great weather (yes, really!), generally kind drivers, and great camping!  We. Love. The.  Northwest!  It seems like the mountains, the BIG mountains, are playing peekaboo with us.  We ride along in a forested area, or through fruit orchards, turn a corner and suddenly Mt. Hood sneaks into our view!!  Really fun.

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We decided on this route based on a fortuitous encounter with Carol York and Peter Fotheringham, two experienced cycle travelers living in Salmon River, Washington, but who happened to be in the bike shop in Hood River when we were there. Kathleen struck up a conversation and explained some of our challenges finding a good cycling route for our family (mainly we were/are concerned about traffic) and they suggested the Sierra Cascades Route from Adventure Cycling Association. Originally I had wanted to do this route through California, but we hesitated as it has a lot of mountain passes, climbs of over 4000 feet in elevation, and many of the passes were still snow-covered. So we chose a different route. At any rate, after talking to Carol and Peter, Carol said she’d leave the maps at the bike shop for us the next day. When I went to pick them up I found an envelope containing 2 bike maps and a highlighted state map of Washington with alternate routes and side trips! Thank you Carol! Well, the next day we headed further down the Columbia Gorge to The Dalles, and then we headed south into the mountains near Mt Hood, and ended up climbing 4000 feet on a gravel road (I swear the road looked paved in my navigation program!). Well, after doing that, then climbing even higher the next day (up to 4600 feet), Kathleen said let’s do the Sierra Cascades. So from that point onwards we decided to follow the Sierra Cascade Route. We headed back down the mountain, back to Hood River (love that town!), visited our favourite bike shops and bagel cafe, and headed back to Cascade Locks to cross the Bridge of the Gods (great name!), into Washington.  

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The Bridge of the Gods from the Washington Side

 

And what about Washington?  Well!  You’ve read Kathleen’s posts, so you know it was amazing–I’ll explain our route in a future post!

Derek